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LOW-WAGE WORKERS ARE FINDING POVERTY HARDER TO ESCAPE

“Climbing above the poverty line has become more daunting in recent years, as the composition of the nation’s low-wage work force has been transformed by the Great Recession, shifting demographics and other factors. More than half of those who make $9 or less an hour are 25 or older, while the proportion who are teenagers has declined to just 17 percent from 28 percent in 2000, after adjusting for inflation, according to Janelle Jones and John Schmitt of the Center for Economic Policy Research.

“Today’s low-wage workers are also more educated, with 41 percent having at least some college, up from 29 percent in 2000. “Minimum-wage and low-wage workers are older and more educated than 10 or 20 years ago, yet they’re making wages below where they were 10 or 20 years ago after inflation,” said Mr. Schmitt, senior economist at the research center. “If you look back several decades, workers near the minimum wage were more likely to be teenagers — that’s the stereotype people had. It’s definitely not accurate anymore.””

Read the full article in the NY Times Business section here.

Closing the Wage Gap is Especially Important for Women of Color in Difficult Times

American women who work full time, year round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. But the wage gap is even larger for many women of color working full time, year round, as African-American women are paid only 62 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. 

nwlc fact sheet graph

Read the full fact sheet by the National Women’s Law Center here

Studies look at what happened when cities raised minimum wage

The Seattle Times reports that “raising the minimum wage doesn’t have a drastic, negative impact on employment, according to university researchers who have studied pay hikes in other cities.

min wage impact on restaurants seattle times

“Ten years ago, San Francisco raised its minimum wage from $6.75 to $8.50 an hour, a 26 percent increase. Since then, it has gone up at regular intervals to its current $10.74 an hour, the highest big-city starting wage in the country. The city has slapped other mandates on businesses, including paid sick leave and a requirement to provide health-care coverage or pay into a pool for uninsured residents.

“What have the effects been on employment? Almost none, according to economists at the University of California, Berkeley, who have studied San Francisco, eight other cities that raised their minimum wages in the past decade, and 21 states with higher base pay than the federal minimum.

“Businesses absorbed the costs through lower turnover, small price increases at restaurants, which have a high concentration of low-wage workers, and higher worker productivity, the researchers found.”

Read the full story here

The world watches the US on labor abuse

The Hill reports that “in late February, the Department of Labor awarded $205,977 in back wages and liquidated damages to former student guestworkers at McDonald’s restaurants in Pennsylvania, and to the U.S. workers alongside them.

“The student guestworkers, from Argentina, Malaysia, and other countries, faced sub-minimum wage pay, shifts of up to 25 hours straight, unpaid overtime, and overpriced company housing where eight people were packed into a single basement room. When the workers raised complaints, their employer responded with threats of retaliation and deportation to intimidate them and hide the abuse.”

Read more of the story here.